Most of your cozy sweaters can be safely cleaned in the washing machine, without losing its new look and feel.
Whether cashmere, acrylic, cotton or silk, a sweater can not only survive the laundering process - it can even come out looking good and feeling clean. (Not to mention the money you save in not taking it to the dry cleaner.)
The key is reading and following the label's washing instructions, including water temperature and drying instructions.
If the label's instructions are missing or unreadable, a guide to washing cashmere, acrylic, cotton, and wool follows below.
Follow label instructions carefully. If it says "Dry Clean Only" - the last word being the key here - you must send it to the cleaners.
However, if it says "Dry Clean", you may be able to wash it.
Yes, they are a little harder to care for than most garments. They can shrink; stretch; they can even (heaven forbid but they do) pill. And the softer the fabric, the more delicate it is to care for and prevent these unwanted changes in its appearance.
Acrylic: Acrylics are man-made fibers that can stretch when subjected to heat. Wash as directed on the label - usually in warm water.
Then either lay flat to dry or tumble dry on low if the label
says that's OK.
Angora: Angora is a blend of rabbit hair and synthetic fibers. It's very prone to shrinking so this is one you should consider dry cleaning.
If the label says it can't be washed, don't put it in the machine. Instead, hand-wash and lay flat to dry.
Cashmere: Cashmere is usually goat hair blended
with wool or synthetic fibers. Follow the label instructions as they're
usually pretty accurate.
Generally, cashmere can be washed on the delicate cycle in cold water. Roll it in a towel to squeeze out excess water. Gently reshape, and lay flat to dry away from sunlight or direct heat.
Chenille: If you want chenille to stay soft, don't put it in the washing machine - even if the label says it's OK.
The rubbing caused by the machine's agitation damages and breaks the fragile fibers, causing them to and snag, pill, or feel rough.
Instead, wash chenille inside out by hand. Lay flat to dry.
Cotton: Unlike sturdier garments, these cotton pieces are best washed in cold water, not warm. Use your machine's gentle cycle to prevent any fiber breakage. Lay flat to dry.
Silk: As long as it isn't beaded or have any other hand-stitched decor, most silk can be safely washed in the machine on its delicate cycle in cold water. Lay flat to dry. It may needed ironing afterward, however.
Wool: Some wool can be washed; others can't take the heat (or even the cold water). Start by checking the label.
If it is OK to put in the washing machine, use the gentlest cycle on your machine, choosing cold for the wash-water temperature. Don't twist to remove excess water; wrap in a towel instead. Lay flat to dry.
Always turn sweaters inside out to reduce pilling. (Those little fuzzy balls
or bits of fluff that show up on the surface are called "pills", and are the
result of fiber agitation in the washing machine, which can cause them to break).
To prevent this, wash a sweater in an extra-large mesh bag. If hand-washing, remove excess water by rolling in a towel. Don't wring - you'll do the same damage to the delicate fibers as a washing machine.
Dry on low heat and remove the garment when it's almost - but not
fully - dry. Finish drying by lying it flat on a clothing rack or
horizontal surface covered by a towel.
pilling does happen, the best way to remove it is to gently shave the
surface with a plastic safety razor. But very, very gently.
Don't put away a sweater dirty. This makes it more attractive to pests. Also, some stains may set.
Once clean, fold to store it. Don't hang
it, as this may cause it to stretch out of shape.
Finally, to make sweaters last longer, air them out at least 24 hours after wearing. Fold and store out of direct light.
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About the Author
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.